Episode 465 – Traffic Accidents = $99B, New Steel Stops Jaws of Life, Ford’s Reptilian Stowaway

August 26th, 2010 at 12:38pm

Runtime 8:31

A study just released by the Centers for Disease Control shows that the annual cost of vehicle crashes in the U.S. at more than $99 billion!  The boron steel modern cars are made out of is so strong that the “Jaws of Life” used by most emergency crews cannot cut through it.  Ford has an iguana problem at its transmission plant in Sterling Heights, Michigan.  All that and more, plus John responds to your questions and comments in the You Said It! segment.

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This is Autoline Daily for August 26, 2010. And now, the news.

I should say, here’s a shocking statistic.  The Detroit News reports that a study just released by the Centers for Disease Control shows that the annual cost of vehicle crashes in the U.S. at more than $99 billion!  99 BILLION!  That figure covers medical expenses and productivity losses.  The cost of direct medical care was $17 billion.  That amounts to $500 for each licensed driver in the U.S. per year.  Total annual fatalities on America’s roads are about 36,000.  Another interesting statistic: more men – 70 percent – were killed and injured – 52 percent – than women.  I guess we’re just a whole lot more reckless.

UNION PACIFIC AUTOFLEX (subscription required)
Railroads move a HUGE amount of freight across the U.S., and new vehicles make up a sizable chunk of that cargo.  To make things easier for automakers, Union Pacific just unveiled a new type of railcar called the AutoFlex.  According to Ward’s, these cars can be reconfigured in just 24 hours to carry different types vehicles.  That may not sound like a big deal, but it can take months for railroads to maneuver their boxcars around if there’s unexpected demand for a certain kind of vehicle.  AutoFlex allows Union Pacific to quickly switch between carrying trucks or passenger cars, saving automakers money.  Surprisingly, the design is so innovative that it’s resulted in 15 patents.  Union Pacific is “on track” – ha, ha – to build 100 AutoFlex cars per year.

NO ECODYNAMICS FOR US CUSTOMERS (subscription required)
Kia was set to introduce a new environmentally friendly sub-brand in the U.S., but Ward’s reports that the idea has been torpedoed.  EcoDynamics was unveiled last year at the Frankfurt Motor Show.  It was supposed to be a global affair, but limited resources have caused the company to rethink its strategy.  Kia is also wary of introducing yet another brand in North America.  The huge expense of marketing another vehicle lineup also played a role in the decision.  Still, EcoDynamics vehicles are offered in Europe and many of their features are available on Kias in the U.S.

When safety regulators in the United States start mandating new regulations, they often ignore the impact they have in the real world. Roof-crush regulations that recently went into effect are now forcing automakers to design A-pillars that are so thick, they can partially block a driver’s view of pedestrians and traffic coming in from the side. Now Ward’s reports that the boron steel needed to make roofs stand up to those crush standards is so strong that the “Jaws of Life” used by most emergency crews to cut open cars involved in accidents cannot cut through that steel. They need to replace their equipment with a new type of “Jaws of Life” that cost about $5,000, a big expense, especially for smaller communities that are going through tough economic times.

Ford is taking advantage of its return to profitability and is putting the pedal to the metal to expand in Asia. The Associated Press reports that the company will introduce eight new models in India over the next five years. And it’s investing $350 million along with Mazda in Thailand to make pick-up trucks and subcompact cars. Ford’s vice president of Asia-Pacific, Joe Heinrichs, says that 70 percent of the company’s global growth will come from Asia over the next decade.

Of course the pickup truck that Ford makes in Thailand is the Ranger, and while it’s investing in a new plant in Thailand to make that truck, it’s going to close a plant in the United States next year that makes an older version of the Ranger. Autoline Daily caught up with Mark Fields, the president of Ford’s American operations, who confirmed it will close.

By the way, a source at Ford tells Autoline Daily that a new Ranger could actually be built off the company’s new C-platform. Even though it’s a front-wheel-drive platform, it can also accommodate all wheel drive. Ford can now build about 1.8 million vehicles off that platform, including all variants.

And speaking of Ford plants, workers at the company’s transmission plant in Sterling Heights, Michigan, were startled to see an iguana running across the floor. They called in animal control experts who discovered it’s a very rare species of spiny-tailed iguana from the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico. They speculate that it hitched a ride in a cargo truck or packing crate that came in from Ford’s assembly plant in Hermosillo, Mexico. However, Hermosillo is a long way from the Yucatan, so they really don’t know how it got there. The iguana now lives at the Detroit Zoo, which was thrilled to get such a rare species.

Coming up next, a look at some of your comments, like on the way I pronounce certain car names, and why VW does a better job with its brands than GM or Ford do.

ihategeneralmotors wrote-in because he doesn’t like the way I pronounce the name of the Volkswagen Phaeton.

“Oh my bujeezus. FAYTUN. not FAYUHTUN. UGH, John.” Well ihategeneralmotors, I’ll just add that to the list of other names that people don’t like the way I say them, like Hyundai.

AccidentallyFunny loved our story on researchers in Scotland who are making fuel from the by products of making whiskey. Actually he loved the way that Jim Hall commented on this story.

“‘Total waste of good scotch.’ I absolutely love this man, excellent host.”

I agree AccidentallyFunny, Hall has a way with words.

And finally Pedro Fernandez wrote-in to ask, “Did VW learn anything from GM and Ford owning too many brands and all the problems they had?”

Pedro the difference is the way that VW handles these brands. It treats them as stand-alone companies. For example, Audi has its own board of directors, its own annual report, its own design and engineering departments, and so on. The same goes for VW’s other brands. Ford, and especially GM, on the other hand, use centralized control and operations. So a Mercury was just a slightly fancier Ford. A Pontiac was little differentiated from a Chevy. Even though VW’s approach involves a lot more overlap and duplication of resources, it clearly produces better results.

Speaking of brands, don’t forget to tune in to Autoline After Hours tonight, live at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Our guest tonight will be Joe Serra, a car dealer with a lot of background in the Saturn brand. We’ll be talking about what’s going on in the retail-end of the business, as well as our comments on the news going on in this industry.

But that brings us to the end of today’s report on the top news in the global auto industry. Thanks for watching, we’ll see you tomorrow.

Thanks to our Partners for embedding Autoline Daily on their websites: Autoblog, WardsAuto.com and WWJ Newsradio 950

35 Comments to “Episode 465 – Traffic Accidents = $99B, New Steel Stops Jaws of Life, Ford’s Reptilian Stowaway”

  1. Todd Says:

    Hi John, I think you are correct in your pronunciation of “phaeton” as “FayUHton”. It is possible the suggested “FAYton” is more correct, but I still side with you on this one, thanks for the show, Todd

  2. tj Martin Says:

    I read a great quote today online calling Volkswagen the Automotive Wal-Mart of the EU . Not in a complimentary way in the least . i.e. Cheap , Brand Marketed , Mid Quality , Mass Produced goods .

    I think thats a pretty accurate appraisal of the entire V-AG line up . I’d just add in Lousy Customer Service, Terrible Product Support and Uneducated Sales people to make the comparison complete .

  3. Chuck Grenci Says:

    So I guess we’ll be seeing some transportation costs (on the MSRP sticker) going down as the Union Pacific car transports get more fully integrated…………………….right……

  4. tj Martin Says:

    99 billion dollars ! Just for medical expenses due to Traffic Accidents !

    Add in the pollution , over crowded roads , cost to maintain old roads and build new ones , repair bills for those crashes , loss of life involved , etc. etc. etc. and at what point do we as a society finally realize that Different types of Cars ( smaller , E/V etc. ) are NOT the solution at all.

    And that what we really need to be spending our money and resources on are ways to decrease the amount of travel needed and increase our Public Transportation as well as Bicycle paths , usage etc.

    $99 Billion !

  5. G. Berman. Says:

    Jaws of life can’t cut through Boron stel??? Why is this news? Fire departments have been running into this problem for maybe 2 to 3 years.Most if not all European cars have been using Boron for years, and the domestic car manufacturers have been using it also. Ford started using Boron with the introduction of the Flex and the 500. What rescuers need is a small portable plasma cutter. The plasma arc will cut through any metal instantly.

  6. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Hey Ford,it’s about time you 86′d the antique Rangers.What about the rumored F100 project?Ya know,in dec of this year when Mahindra finally brings in their midsized tr20/tr40 DIESELS,your gonna wish you had better vision.That goes for Dodge/Jeep and Toyota….gm? Well,they’re too busy being stupid to notice much of anything in the automotive field.

  7. Kit Gerhart Says:

    tj Martin Says:
    August 26th, 2010 at 1:05 pm

    “I read a great quote today online calling Volkswagen the Automotive Wal-Mart of the EU . Not in a complimentary way in the least . i.e. Cheap , Brand Marketed , Mid Quality , Mass Produced goods.”

    Was this quote in reference to VW in the Euro market, or the US market? VW is generally considered the top of the heap among “mainstream” car sellers in Europe.

    I suspect your description of “Lousy Customer Service, Terrible Product Support and Uneducated Sales people” refers to VW in North America more than Europe. VW didn’t become the dominant car company in Europe by having dealer service like they provide in the US.

  8. pedro fernandez Says:

    There goes Ford closing another US plant, and to make the next Ranger from a car platform? One crummy Ridgeland in the market is enough, thank you. re. the jaws of life problem, just wait till these EV’s hit the road. Rescuers are gonna be scared of cutting into these things.

  9. Todd J. Says:

    I’m thrilled to see Ford expanding into Asia. I know they always did well with their Ford Laser in Thailand. There’s a lot of untapped potential in these growing economies, both in present time, and for future parts suppliers and manufacturing as the cars sold today begin to age.

  10. Derek V. Says:

    You said, “The plasma arc will cut through any metal instantly.”

    So, they’ll be able to cut through the steel/boron, extract the passengers, avoid burning them (or anything else), and back to a safe distance all before that stray spark ignites any of the flammable liquids you are likely to come across at an accident scene.

    I think improving the JOL is probably a safer route to go.

  11. Chuck Grenci Says:

    I think one of the reasons for the ‘jaws of life’ is to reduce (if not eliminate) sparks when working around an automobile crash site. I’m guessing they would just need to upgrade the jaw material (but maybe the hydraulics need to be upgraded too).

    Not to be ghoulish but it appears that traffic crashes are an industry in themselves; doctors, lawyers, insurance, vehicle repairs/replacement, etc., etc. I wonder how many jobs are created by these unfortunate occurrences that we call accidents but more correctly should be called crashes.

  12. Len Simpson Says:

    REAL driver training would qreatly reduce the accident rate, just like a REAL grade school education would reduce the number of ignorant dropouts. It won,t be easy, bucking Human Nature

  13. pedro fernandez Says:

    John did not understand my comment on the VW issue, I meant that GM and Ford bought other carmakers, not their own brands, when they thought they ruled the automotive world and could do no wrong and yet they were all failures that ended up being sold at a loss

  14. tj Martin Says:

    Kit Gerhart ;

    That comment about VW came from the EU , not here believe it or not . VW’s cache is slipping rapidly over there . Even the UK sites are slowly coming around to the fact that VW’s reliability and customer service is not all its hyped up to be . The paradigm shift seems to have started about 16 months ago and came along with a rapidly growing dissatisfaction with VW’s ever growing Brand Engineering and several of their brands slipping thru the cracks customer service wise . SEAT being the first and so far the worst . So yes VW has grown but like so many others that growth is starting to bite them in the rear .

    So honestly I’m not sure I agree with John’s reasoning in his response to Pedro . VW is on a rapid decline and nothing seems to be stemming the bleeding .

    Thats what I’m seeing from their ( EU/UK friends ) eyes at least along with their press .

  15. Todd J. Says:

    As Pedro said, I’m not entirely thrilled with the idea of closing the Ranger plant. For that matter, I hate to see the current Explorer line switch to unibody also. Unless there’s something I just don’t get, I’ve always been of the impression that a solid frame with a body on top was the most rigid and durable way to build a truck. It certainly makes building the suspension much easier too.

  16. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Todd J. Says:
    August 26th, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    “I’ve always been of the impression that a solid frame with a body on top was the most rigid and durable way to build a truck. It certainly makes building the suspension much easier too.”

    Unibody is much stronger and more rigid for its weight than body on frame. That is why virtualy all cars, and an increasing number of SUV/tall wagons are made that way.

    While unibody pickups may be a hard sell, the Jeep Commanche was actually a decent small pickup, and, I’m pretty sure was torsionally stiffer than most of its contemporaries.

    As far as the Ridgeline, it is a very good vehicle, if you can take the way it looks.

  17. Kit Gerhart Says:

    From what I’ve heard, SEAT is the VW brand that is really struggling, and could go the way of Mercury and Pontiac. A little surprising to me is that Skoda, the old Czech national car company acquired after the fall of the “Iron Curtain,” is doing OK.

  18. Salvador G. Says:

    Welcome back JohnMc., hope you got a good rest. I got no comment except….

    99 BILLION -Seriously, oh wait “At more than 99 Billion” so this is a rought estimate or annual average?? Does this include pedestrians hit by a car?

    Ok! then that give me an excuse to add this….

  19. Kit Gerhart Says:

    “99 BILLION -Seriously, oh wait “At more than 99 Billion” so this is a rought estimate or annual average?? Does this include pedestrians hit by a car?”

    I’m surprised it’s that low, at only ~$300/person in the US. I’m thinking I am paying too much for my car insurance.

  20. pedro fernandez Says:

    Buyers who need a real pick up truck will not even look at the Ridgeline, it is not meant for real heavy duty or off-road use, even the previous gen Tundra was frowned upon as being not up to the job, until the new came out.

  21. pedro fernandez Says:

    I have noticed a higher rate of rear end collisions due mostly to texting, talking or fiddling with the ever more complicated nav and entertainment systems in new cars. WE all pay for this crap.

  22. tj Martin Says:

    Kit Gerhart

    As to your comment on Unibody frames being stronger there you are wrong my friend . Body on Frame is the only way to go for Towing , Heavy Loads , Off Road etc. It’s not only stronger ( albeit heavier ) its more durable . Easier to repair and much easier to modify ( should you be of the serious Off road ilk )

    Poke your nose over at overlandjournal.com and some of the other travel oriented Off road sites ( not the wackos who climb things just because they can ) not a one will ever recommend a Unibody Even a Range Rover ( new ones )

    Nope . Car and Xovers should be Unibody . Trucks and serious SUV’s should be body on Frame . One of the many places where the ” New ” technology is surpassed by the old .

    And Ford not building the Ranger in the US and making it off a FWD platform ? I guess Ford wants to destroy any credibility they’ve gained in the last three years .

  23. pedro fernandez Says:

    tj just visited the overlandjournal website and what an interesting activity this really is. I see they even have a Toyota 4by4 club and they hold activities in different states, I did a little search and found not one entry for the Ridgeline truck even though it is available in 4wd

  24. Salvador G. Says:

    Kit Gerhart Says:
    August 26th, 2010 at 4:59 pm
    I’m surprised it’s that low, at only ~$300/person in the US. I’m thinking I am paying too much for my car insurance.

    -Yeah, Kit; it’s not every person in this country that gets injure every year. AND Thanks for your support for universal healthcare.

  25. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The Ridgeline is the best pickup for what 95% of pickup owners use them for, which is driving around with an empty box carrying from 1 to 4 people. The Ridgeline rides well, handles well, has a relatively comfortable back seat, and has a handy hidden “trunk.”

    It will not tow 10,000 pounds, but that is not what most people use pickups for. They are much more like to use them to bring a few bags of mulch home from Lowes or Home Depot, and the Ridgeline does that very well, while being a more pleasant every day vehicle than most pickups. It is ugly, though.

  26. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I checked out overlandjournal, and it is interesting. It looks like people use about everything for “overlanding,” including VW vans and big Chevy and GMC vans, with unibodies. Also, the new Mercedes M-class is unibody, and would be very capable of “overlanding.”

  27. HyundaiSmoke Says:

    John should be allowed to say Hyundai the way he wants, and it sounds right when he says Hun-die for some reason.

    When other people say it, it doesnt sound as good.

    John’s saying of Hun-Die gives the term an sense of class, in the same manner that Jeff Bridges says Hyundai.

  28. Nick Stevens Says:

    I feel sorry for the naive, greedy, utter fools that invested $235 millions ($200 millions the dealers alone) for the idiotic, ugly Mahindra Pickup dinosaur-tech fourth world piece of crap, only to see Mahindra welch on the deal!!!!!

    “Just days after Mahindra’s diesel-powered compact pickups were approved by the EPA for sale in the US, the Indian automaker apparently canceled its distributor agreement with Global Vehicles according to the message above that was posted to Mahindra’s Media site. Global Vehicles has had a deal to distribute Mahindra pickup and SUV models in the US since 2006, and has signed up 350 dealers to sell the Indian imports. Recently cracks in the relationship surfaced when GV sued Mahindra alleging that the manufacturer was delaying homologation for the US market. GV claims to have spent $35m preparing for Mahindra’s US launch, and dealers were said to have paid $200k apiece to obtain franchises. Meanwhile, Automotive News [sub] notes

    The statement by Mahindra hangs a question mark over the 300 to 350 U.S. retailers who have signed franchise agreements directly with Global Vehicles, if the Alpharetta, Ga., company no longer is the distributor.”

  29. Nick Stevens Says:

    What is utterly unacceptable with the $99 billion that the 36,000 fatalities and many more injuries (I assume they included these in the cost?) annually cost the US economy is not the amount, which is really insignificant compared to $15,000 billion or more of GDP every year, but the fact that two-thirds of these fatalities were perefectly unneccessary and coul dbe prevented at ZERO cost, since they result from DRUNKARDS Driving and FOOLS that do not have their damned seat belts on, a $5 part.

  30. Nick Stevens Says:

    I am surprised Seat is not doing so well, its cars are fine, cheap VW clones, and so are SKODA’s, and I am not surprised SKoda is doing so well, they have more than just VW clones, they also have unique vehicles not available as VW or Seats. The Skoda Superb should be quite popular with tall and big buyers in the US since it is a stretched version of the passat (or the jetta?) that sells for a very reasonable amount, and is used for official cars by the Czech and other Govts too, due to its excellent rear room. To get such space in the US you’d have to get a 7 or an S Longs or an A8L or an LS 460L for three to five times the price.

  31. willi Says:

    i wouldn’t jump to conclusions as to who / what caused the 99 billion, but an insensitive view would include getting some of the idiots off of the road, and realizing that this stat also provided alot of folk with a job

  32. Nick Stevens Says:

    I was not jumping to any conclusions, I jusrt cited the published facts as to the causes of the fatalities, and it is a FACT that two-thirds or more of the 36,000 last year were due to drunkards and morons not wearing seatbelts. The rest could also be totally preventable at zero cost, since now we have all these clowns that eat, drink, apply makeup, SHAVE (our secretary in her ugly second gen Taurus was almost killed by a MORON in an SUV who was speeding AND Shaving), and of course TEXT or talk on the phone and drive.

    ALL of these are preventable 100% without spending a DIME. So when I hear again some moron claimikng that the carmakers are not making safe enough cars, I want to scream, How much can you protect an irresponsible drunk or a texter and driver or a shaver/makeup-er and driver clown?

  33. willi Says:

    i do agree, i see them every day, and i always look for answers – just this morning i’m thinking: where is a cop or a camera when you need one – some person using their vehicle as a weapon, for sure, just darting in and out, not caring who gets it, in an area where i see a wreck almost every day ( due to merging ) and on merging, i blame the state for some of the monstrosities they’ve created on the freeway

    back to wednesday, it was a great day for feed back on clunkers, and other issues, alot of you took time to detail issues, goes to show for me that there is no easy answer to any of this, we can all chime in, that doesn’t fix it, so what would? we still can’t compete with imports, we still have morons in congress making bad decisions, and there’ll be a new market emerging from the electric concept with yet more imports and more reasons for wrecks that weren’t anticipated ( try the guy that ran out of volts on the freeway and everything went to hell ) and more morons in congress screwing us!

  34. Alex Kovnat Says:

    >When safety regulators in
    >the United States start mandating
    >new regulations, they often
    >ignore the impact they have
    >in the real world. Roof-crush
    >regulations that recently went
    >into effect are now forcing
    >automakers to design A-pillars
    >that are so thick, they can
    >partially block a driver’s view
    >of pedestrians …………

    That’s what happens when public policymaking is oriented to the emotional and ego needs of intellectuals. It frightens me, that my next car will weigh more, not get the same fuel economy I’m now getting with my 2005 Toyota Corolla, or else may not deliver the same performance, and on top of it all, will be more difficult for me to maintain situational awareness. All to meet the needs of people like Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi and other politicians and bureaucrats, on their perpetual ego trips.

  35. Artimus77 Says:

    I don’t know why Ford would want to close a plant with so much history. I know it makes good economics on there end but come on. St. Paul as a ton of history and a dedicated work force. I guess that means very little now-a-days. Plus they’re throwing away a plant with it’s own hydroelectric dam. Just try and get one of thoughs built today and see how much fun you’ll have.

    You know Ford, your still importing the Transit Connect from Turkey, and said you’d like to have it domesticly made one day. Do you see where I’m going with this?